ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays held a players-only meeting in the clubhouse Friday evening to discuss their sluggish start to the season, but there was no panic in the room regarding their 5-10 record.
Infielder Sean Rodriguez voiced a few common sentiments among Rays players: that their problems now are more mental than mechanical or physical, and that they need to keep the same mindset and attitude that's allowed them to be so successful over the past few years. That includes making sure the struggling hitters stay patient rather than attempting to swing their way out of slumps.
Rays manager Joe Maddon agreed that now is not the time to make any dramatic changes, adding that he's not concerned about their record, because they've yet to play up to their ability. They've also seen far too many games where only one aspect of their team clicks.
"We just haven't put our whole game together," Maddon said. "We're definitely better than that."
As usual, Maddon praised his club's effort and attitude amid this rough skid in which they've lost eight of their last 10. Maddon has never been one to call meetings with players, but he liked the idea that they were getting together "to try to build one another up a little bit."
"It's just a bad couple games. We kind of just put it behind us," said Jeremy Hellickson, who will start Saturday against the A's. "We had a rough one [Thursday] night, but we've just got to forget about it and move on."
Their schedule won't get any easier from here, however, as they're about to play three games against the A's, who own the American League's best record going into Friday's game, and three more against the Yankees, who are 8-6 going into Friday despite all their injured stars.
"Of course I'd like to have a better record, absolutely. But I'm not really concerned yet. It's too early to be concerned," Maddon said. "If we had been playing as well as we possibly could have played and had this record, I'd be more concerned. We have not even scratched the surface of how well we're capable of playing."
Maddon just wants correct calls, not any favors
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' pitching has been off at times, and they've struggled to hit even more often. But as several players noted Friday afternoon, they haven't exactly been catching a lot of breaks with the officials, either.
The latest came in the 10th inning of Thursday's 10-6 loss to the Orioles in Baltimore. Adam Jones hit a long single to right field, and the Orioles' baserunners were held up by third-base coach Bobby Dickerson. As they worked their way back, it appeared Jones did not touch second base as the rules require. Rays manager Joe Maddon argued the call to no avail, just as he's vocally disagreed with several others this season, and then Matt Wieters hit a walk-off grand slam.
The most notable instance of a potentially game-changing call this season also came on the Rays' latest road trip, when Ben Zobrist was ruled out on a called strike three that home-plate umpire Marty Foster later admitted was wrong. Zobrist was involved in another questionable call during Tampa Bay's first homestand, when first-base umpire James Hoye ruled that Evan Longoria passed Zobrist on the basepaths in the Rays' April 4 loss to the Orioles.
Maddon didn't want to play the part of victim Friday, but he did once again stress his desire for Major League Baseball and its umpires to do everything possible to get each call correct.
"We haven't [caught any breaks], and I think at some point you eventually get some things coming back to you," Maddon said. "But here's the thing about breaks: I don't want breaks as much as I just want what's right. I'm never looking for somebody to make the wrong call in our favor. That's not what I want. I just want the right call to be made on a consistent basis, then you can live with that.
"Of course it's difficult. And maybe that gets into the purview of instant replay and why it's important and which kind of plays would be reviewable and why. That's it. When it comes down to breaks, you just want what's right, what you've earned. You don't want anything you have not earned."
Maddon heard back from Foster after his questionable call but said he had not spoken to second-base umpire Gerry Davis, who made the call Thursday night in the Orioles game.
"And I don't expect him to. I'm not looking for that, quite frankly. I appreciate it. I respect it," Maddon said. "Those guys, I know, are trying very, very hard. I know those guys probably lose sleep and are very upset with themselves when they make calls or bad calls like that, just like I am when I do something dumb on the bench. We all make mistakes. I understand that.
"What can help them make less mistakes? You can't necessarily help me make less mistakes on the bench as a manager, but you possibly can help officials make less mistakes through technology. Maybe that's what this is speaking to loudly right now more than anything else."
Scott hopes to return to Rays next week
ST. PETERSBURG -- Designated hitter Luke Scott, working his way back from a right calf strain, ran full-speed on the field and threw in the outfield Friday, and he hopes to start an official Minor League rehab assignment "as soon as I can."
Scott said the assignment will begin as soon as head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield gives Scott his final clearance to get back in a game, which won't come until at least Sunday. Scott added that he hasn't been told how many at-bats he'd need before rejoining the Rays, but noted that he went on a rehab assignment last year that lasted only eight at-bats over two games.
"As soon as Ron clears me, I am gone. I'm gone as soon as I feel good," Scott said. "Hopefully it'll be in a day or two."
While Scott said he felt good throwing from about 280-290 feet in the outfield, he expects he'll only be used as a DH on his rehab assignment.
Asked if he could possibly return as soon as Tampa Bay's next road trip, which begins Thursday in Chicago against the White Sox, Scott replied, "You never know, man. Hopefully sooner. I like to be optimistic and look at the bright side."
"He sounded pretty optimistic," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
• The Rays observed a moment of silence at Tropicana Field on Friday night to remember those lost and injured in the Boston Marathon bombings.
• Rays reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo, on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing Tommy John surgery, played catch Friday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
• Jose Lobaton's two-run single in the first inning Friday night was the Rays' first hit of the season with the bases loaded. Before that, they were 0-for-12 with two walks this season with the bases loaded. Their hitless streak in bases-loaded situations actually stretched back to Sept. 21, 2012, when Scott hit a bases-loaded double against the Blue Jays.
• Entering Friday's game, Tampa Bay is batting just .199 (63-for-317) in the first six innings, .14 points below the next team, and has been outscored, 27-11, through the first three innings.
• On the bright side, the Rays' five errors through 15 games are the second-fewest in club history, and they haven't committed an error in their first six home games this season.